Activity kits and fun facts keep kids entertained

“Where Did They Go?” by Emily Bornoff.
“Where Did They Go?” by Emily Bornoff.

A dear friend’s 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was happily attending camp until an accident exiled her to home and boredom. Fortunately, kid-centered books came to the rescue.

“Make Paper Lantern Animals” (Klutz, ages 6+) made Charlotte beam. This activity kit comes with 32 pages of kid-friendly instructions for constructing everything from puppies to unicorns. The kit provides ribbons, stencils, glue, tissue paper and more. Charlotte’s mum was thrilled that it worked for small fingers and was easy enough for Charlotte to complete solo. Charlotte was immediately engaged, finished by herself, and within a couple hours was out the door to offer her homemade gift to a friend.

Charlotte’s mum had, for days, been the center of her daughter’s care and was running out of ways to entertain her. New books from National Geographic provided instant relief. “Real or Fake: Far-out Fibs, Fishy Facts and Phony Photos to Test for the Truth” (National Geographic for Kids, 8-12) was Charlotte’s favorite. Did the inventor of the lie-detector also pen Wonder Woman? Did Cleopatra talk to aliens? Can spaghetti grow on trees? Mother and daughter guessed their way happily through this book, Charlotte delighting in the fact that she had a better guessing record than her mother.

Next on their to-do pile is Stephanie Warren Drimmer and Julie K. Cohen’s “Mastermind” (National Geographic Kids, ages 8-12) This book has over 100 games, tests and puzzles and integrates information into activities, from the five senses to problem solving. Optical illusions, crosswords, codes, word searches, mazes and experiments abound.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts … My daughter-in- law is an unafraid artist. This is lucky for my 4-year-old granddaughter who loves being made-up. One rainy Saturday, they delighted in the arrival of “Glitter Face Painting” (Klutz, ages 8 and up, or fun-loving parents). The kit has six shimmery paint colors, cosmetic glitter and 45 paste-on gems ready for sparkly results. They test drove it immediately, turning my granddaughter into a rainbow-cloud girl. The kit got rave reviews. My daughter-in-law said the directions were straightforward and application easy. My granddaughter’s comment: “I loooove it. I like all of the pretty things.”

I returned from a visit with my grandchildren to find two books I wish I’d had with me. Emily Bornoff’s “Where Did They Go?” (Candlewick, ages 3-6) is a deceptively simple seek-and-find book. The rhyming text describes animals and their habitats. Each page ends, “Where did the bushy-tailed squirrel (or sandy-haired addax, or giant tortoise…) go?” The animals are hard to find which makes perfect sense as the afterword offers information on each of the endangered animals pictured.

Olivier Tallec’s “Who What Where?” like its companion, “Who Done It?” (both from Chronicle, ages 3-6) is fabulous for observation, imagination and discussion. One page asks a question, for example, “Who’s looking in the mirror?” and the opposing page offers a “line up” of animals and humans. Readers must collect clues from subtle detail differences to discover which character’s appearance answers the question.